Friday, February 19, 2010
growing steel ones for Jesus
Anthony of Egypt was the first "solitary" and thereby the first "religious" or "monk." He was from a wealthy family but chose to leave the madness of the city to go out into the desert to find a cave in which to sit and think and live. Actually it was all harder than that but it makes a good story and it is true but I expect it was harder than it seems to us what with no bottled water, granola bars or flashlights. While there, in his cave, he was able to focus on what was going on inside him and what was going on around him. Some might say that nothing was going on around him, being that he was sitting in a cave alone, but I would disagree and I know he would too.
By placing certain boundaries around his life, he was able to see what could not be seen any other way. It is like the difference between looking at the stars in the middle of a brightly lit city and looking at the stars from a field in the middle of the darkest woods of a large forest. Take away the light from around and the lights from above stand out. Take away the noises and inputs and distractions from busy, over-stimulated lives and God's voice which is, these days, very gentle seems to come out of the mist of the busy and the loud and the stimulating.
I find it hard to slow down the action in my life so that I can deeply listen to myself and to my God and to my close and trusted friends and mentors. But when I make decisions like keeping a radio off in a drive or keeping the house silent by leaving the cell phone in the car and turning off the ringer on the house phone or taking a day each month for absolute silence - absolute listening silence; then I can hear things I need to hear and see things I need to see and go deeper in that pool of love in which God stands with open arms, waiting for us to take the leap.
Some say this icon of Anthony which was written for me in Greece, is stern - even grouchy. But I wonder if that is a projection in this Hallmark-card-society we live in. I see a man focused, powerful, fearless of seeing and speaking the "truth - lead where it may and cost what it will " (as Phillips Brooks would say.) This man in this image shows the strain of knowing the truth and the power of speaking the truth, and although you cannot see them, I expect his are made of steel!